Carole King was a part of the singer/songwriter movement, which started in the early 1970s. Her famous counterparts include James Taylor (so close, they’re practically brother and sister), Cat Stevens, and Joni Mitchell to name a few. Though I didn’t agree with the making of her life into a musical, “Beautiful,” I still saw it with my father. There was a lot I didn’t know about her, the most interesting fact being her involvement of co-writing some of the most defining songs from the ’60s like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Hands down, the defining album from her career is 1971’s “Tapestry.” This four Grammy award-winning album dives into the themes of love, heartbreak and learning to self-love. It was released right after King’s divorce from her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, which made people believe that this album is meant to be personal.
A song most associated with Carole King, which is the song that begins “Tapestry,” is “I Feel the Earth Move.” The first chords are so recognizable and get people instantly excited to sing along to it. The song describes the feelings of being totally in love with someone mentally, physically and sexually, which is something I didn’t understand at a young age. I tried to get our choir teacher to let us sing this song during an Earth Day recitation in the 4th grade, but we weren’t able to because it was “inappropriate.” On a related unrelated note, an American Idol contestant, Mary Roach, supplied a very peculiar rendition of the song while doing Axel Rose styled dancing to accompany it. It’s hilarious when she flips out when the judges reject her. It’s worth a search on YouTube.
“So Far Away” is one of those songs that sounds beautiful and happy, but it’s actually really depressing. Despite being one of the least diverse in terms of lyrics, its message is strong and clear. Being constantly on the road performing in a different city every night can take a toll on someone’s mental health. On top of that, being away from loved ones and for long periods of time adds to the realization that your goals in life aren’t in your complete control. This is what Carole King is trying to get at, ironically, in musical form. The only way to not let those emotions show is to shove them down.
I remember singing “It’s Too Late” with my father when I was a little girl. I will admit that it was a little weird due to the subject matter of the song as it’s most definitely about a couple falling out of love. I could imagine someone putting it on replay after they’ve gotten out of a relationship and it can actually be related back to King’s personal love life. In real life, Gerry Goffin, her ex-husband, had a series of affairs when they were together. It’s interesting how throughout the song King isn’t putting all the blame onto just one person. The most heartbreaking lyric is, “Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you,” and they echo in my head hours after listening to the song.
“Beautiful” is one of the sappier songs on the album, and my mother hates it for that reason. Regardless, it has a message of not hanging onto the negativities that others display. This is solidified by the upbeat tempo and overall happiness that the song has to offer. Towards the end of the song, the key changes upward and Carole Kings voices louder as she repeats, “You’ve got to get up in the morning with a smile on your face, and show the world all the love in your heart.” That really irons down the importance of living your best life. This might be a hot take, but this song should’ve closed out the album. Its message is more important than the message in “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, ”which is what the album ends with. Focusing on your own emotional development and self-esteem is much more important than getting validation from others. If that switch would’ve been made, “Tapestry” would’ve been perfect.
Of course, everyone should know “You’ve Got a Friend,” which is a classic song about, you guessed it, friendship. Sure you have songs like “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen or “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman, but they will never compete when comparing them to Carole King’s songwriting abilities. This is a song that makes me cry often because the lyrics were perfect in describing what it means to have a friend, such as, “Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night,” and, “Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call.” Carole King is assuring this unknown person (or it could potentially be the listener) that regardless of any situation, she’s always going to be there. Not long after “Tapestry” came out, James Taylor covered “You’ve Got a Friend” in the same year, and for some reason, people still think that this song was his creation.
Rightfully so, Carole King ends out the album with you “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” which is about a woman recounting how a man makes her feel about herself. This song was originally written for and sung by the late Aretha Franklin, four years prior to the release of “Tapestry.” King’s rendition is a lot more simplistic and, which fits perfectly with the down-to-earth styles people from the 70’s singers/songwriters movement are known for. However, I like Aretha’s version better because I think it was meant to be more soulful, which is something King doesn’t display as much.